A Methodist preacher told me this week that if you put a ragged, dirty man living under a highway overpass beside the most beautiful Gothic cathedral in the world and ask God which one God loves more, God would come down on the side of the man from the street.
Tending to the needs of fellow humans is the model for the church, radiating from the life and teaching of Jesus, that first-century rabbi who had a knack for ticking off leaders in the temple and for ingratiating himself to everyday sinners in his healing and teaching ministry from Galilee to Jerusalem.
Christians marked the Day of Pentecost last Sunday. Folks in some churches came to worship wearing Holy Spirit red, the liturgical color of the season, to commemorate the day described in Acts 2 when “believers had gathered together in one place.”
This is a story with drama and mystery, including unexpected noise from the sky and tongues of fire spreading around touching every person in the room. It was like a gathering of old college friends who had come from all over with everybody talking at the same time.
Except in this case everyone was hearing in his or her native language.
All this giving rise to the big question: “What does this mean!”
Of course, there were naysayers around to make fun of the believers getting so cranked up about their religion or to say, “These folks are drunk!”
Peter to the rescue.
“Fellow Jews, listen to me! Let me tell you what this means. These folks are not drunk (it’s only 9 o’clock in the morning), rather this is what the prophet Joel spoke about.”
The words from Joel: “God says I will pour out my Spirit upon all folks. Your sons and your daughters will prophesy; your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams ...”
Thinking about Pentecost makes me wonder if I’m not serious enough about the Holy Spirit, even though at times I have felt the hovering Spirit at work. Even in church.
As many of you know, I’m a Presbyterian, and I have never seen a Presbyterian lose their cool about Jesus.
Once, I remember thinking I would like to jump into the aisle and shout, but I held myself in check, not wanting to feel the hot breath of a staid Presbyterian elder on my neck!
Smart remarks aside, the times I have really felt the Spirit around me were when I worshiped with homeless people who lived in the woods along the Football Highway (U.S. 15-501) between Durham and Chapel Hill or shared lunch on Wednesdays with them and other homeless folks looking for a friend or a biscuit.
Or when for a time I was the volunteer pianist for the worship service in the chapel at Butner where residents with all manner of disabilities gathered faithfully to sing and to praise God on Sunday.
That’s where I met a wonderful woman named Sarah whose God-given talent allowed her to play anything on the organ that she had heard. Once, she played part of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.
And Carlos, the blind man who did not speak but who could sing “The Lord’s Prayer” and “O Holy Night,” never missing a word or a note.
In the May newsletter from an Episcopal Church, the rector noted in her column that the Day of Pentecost is an especially important time to gather for Eucharist (Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper, whatever you call it) to give thanks to God for empowering us through the Spirit and inviting us to participate in the divine dance of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Thanks be to God!
Rabbi Arik W. Ascherman will lead a discussion at Kehillah Synagogue, 1200 Mason Farm Road, about events in Israel over the past year from a human rights perspective. The event is set for 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, May 31.
Also on the same day, he will be a guest at the Church of Reconciliation, 110 N. Elliott Road, from 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. at a gathering in the fellowship hall for conversation and refreshments.
A compelling speaker, the rabbi will share the themes of his work in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Folks who want to broaden their horizons by encountering an influential voice for justice and peace in one of the world’s most troubled locations, are welcome.
Ascherman, president and senior rabbi of Rabbis for Human Rights, has received numerous awards and recognitions for his human rights work. He has worked on advocacy for the homeless and with nascent congregations in the former Soviet Union.
The rabbi graduated from Harvard University in 1981 and was ordained in 1989 in New York.
Contact Flo Johnston at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 910-361-4135 Go ahead. Make my day. Send me a comment or an announcement.